This is my initial impression, thoughts, modifications, and results of my first smoke on my new Landmann Great Outdoors Smoky Mountain Series 3895GWLA smoker.
From my research, this seemed to be a pretty well put together smoker. The main winning factor for me was the large amount of space that it provided. I plan on smoking several large racks of ribs, chickens, pork butts, and other various assorted goodies in the future, and I wanted to make sure that I would have plenty of space to do so. Having compared this smoker to others smokers in similar price ranges, I knew that some modifications would need to be done, as inevitably all smokers at this price range need some modifications. I knew that I would want the Bayou Classic 0-30 PSI Adjustable Regulator/Hose Assembly so that I could fine tune the gas and temp of the smoker, a LavaLock High-Temp Gasket Kit for the door, and a Latch-Action Toggle Clamp to fully secure the door.
The first thing I did when I received my smoker was to test the thermometer that came with it. I did a boil test with it, and it showed the same temperature as my my thermal laser thermometer, a kitchen thermometer, as well as my Ivation 738 (a rebranded Maverick 733). While I do not plan on using the door thermometer as my primary thermometer, it would be nice to look at it and know that its very close to accurate at a glance.
I then went ahead and assembled the smoker. It was very easy to do and only required a phillips head screwdriver. Beware, there were pieces of foam everywhere, and I probably vacuumed out the smoker at least 3 times to ensure I got them all.
Having assembled the smoker, I wanted to see the before and after of my mods, so I did a test smoke in the smoker with just wood chips and a pan full of water. I did this as a sort of first stage seasoning of the smoker as well. Let me tell you... this thing leaked smoke like a sieve. I had smoke coming out of the door, and from around the smoke stack It looked like my need for the LavaLock was well justified, and with the small gap tolerance between the door and the body of the smoker, once I applied the gasket kit, I would also need the clamp to keep the door closed. I found that it was hard to adjust the flame in a finite manner. The adjustable regulator would be a good call as well. Wood chunks also caught fire very easily in the wood pan since it is just a thin metal enamel covered pan, which got very hot, very easily. I had not really expected this to happen, so this is something I will need to address in future modifications.
The LavaLock went on very easily. One pro-tip is to do one of the following: Either stretch out the gasket kit when applying, or don't stretch it at all. I had not realized that it had some "give" to it, and ended up needing to cut off part of the gasket and reapply with a new piece since the thickness of the gasket was not uniform with the rest of the areas that I had applied the gasket. A simple fix, but an extra step, nonetheless, especially when you are trying to make sure that the door seals in a uniform manner.
I then applied the door latch. I used one latch, but after installing just one, I feel that two latches, centered on the door more towards either end as opposed to one dead center, would have been more ideal. However, with the smoker being made out of thin sheet metal, it was fairly easy to manipulate the door with my hands and make the ends bow slightly inward. This way, when I shut the door, the center part of the door would be pulled inwards, making sure that the door had a uniform seal.
Adding the Bayou Classic regulator... well, that took some work. First, Landmann uses some sort of glue to keep the hose from becoming loose in its connection between the regulator and the gas nozzle. I took my time and slowly worked on trying to tighten and loosen the hose from both the regulator and the gas nozzle. Eventually, I weakened the glue enough that I was able to remove both. I was hoping for a direct replacement of the Bayou Classic regulator connecting to the gas nozzle, but I had no such luck. I took the new regulator and the gas nozzle to Lowes and found that I would need a 3/8" OD Tube x 3/8" FIP Flare Female Adapter, a 3/8" MIP x 1/4" FIP Pipe Reducer Bushing, and a 1/4" MIP x 1/8" FIP Pipe Reducer Bushing. Once I cleaned off the glue from the factor gas nozzle, I placed gas pipe thread sealant on all of the various parts and assembled them. I allowed them to cure for 24 hours just to be on the safe side.
One of the other mods that I had seen on this site was by Lamar on his Landmann GOSM Smoker, and it was a thermometer shelf/mount as well as a port for his thermometer sensors. I really liked the idea of having a dedicated area for my thermometer, keeping it free from the chance of accidentally getting too hot and melting. I took a spare mounting bracket that I had for a rack-mounted server, and modified it to act as my thermometer mount. I also went ahead and added a port on the side of the smoker for me to easily add my probes into the smoker without having to route them either down the smoke stack, or close them in the door. The benefit of using the server bracket was that there were already the correct size holes needed to mount directly to the smoker. It also had the same size and spaced holes on a different side of the bracket, allowing me to flush mount it when not in use, so that a smoker cover could be used. By chance there was also a large cut out area, so I made sure to mount the probe port so that it would sit in the cut out when the bracket was flush mounted.
Here is my newly modded smoker as it stands currently:
After completing the mods, the first thing that I did was coat the inside of the smoker liberally with canola oil and season it for 4 hours at around 300 degrees. I did this the night before my first official smoke, and while it was seasoning, I prepped the pork butt inside.
I had spent several hours (5+) researching pork butts, and the various ways that people prepare them. I also debated whether or not to cut off the fat cap, and whether or not to inject. I decided that I wanted to have a good bark all over the pork butt, and I wanted the flavor to have the best chance of seeping deep into the meat. I decided that I would cut off the fat cap, and since I was doing that, I would also inject the pork butt with a mixture of apple juice concentrate, apple cider vinegar, and sriracha. I did not go overboard with the sriracha, as the goal was to impart a little heat, and nothing more.
Being that my family is originally from Texas, and we love good Texas BBQ. I know that pork is not a traditional Texas BBQ meat, but I wanted to make sure that I imparted that same style of flavor, so I decided that I would make a homemade rub made out of equal parts coarse ground black pepper and sea salt, and then add equal parts paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder, for color and taste. I then coated the pork liberally first in jalapeno mustard (again, to add a little heat), and then applied my rub on top of that. Needless to say, it looked beautiful. My wife even commented the same.
I finished that up and promptly put that into the fridge wrapped in saran wrap to marinate overnight.
I woke up the next morning around 4:30AM and fired up the smoker. While it was warming up, I went ahead and injected my mixture into the pork, making sure to hit all the major areas. I wanted to make sure the pork had a little time to rest with the injections, so I fine tuned the smoker and got it to 230 degrees F. Once I hit my temp, I put one a few chunks of Hickory wrapped in foil, with just a few holes poked in the foil. Once I saw that magical Thin Blue Smoke, I brought the pork butt out and placed it in the center rack.
I let the pork butt cook for 3.5 hours before I put my thermometer into it, and then watched the temps like a hawk using my Ivation 738. As soon as it hit 165 degrees F, I pulled it out and wrapped it in foil after giving it a liberal spritzing with the same AJ/AC/Sriracha mix that it was injected with. The bark looks like a good color, but I think I would have liked a little darker and thicker bark on it.
After wrapping up the pork butt, it went back into the smoker for a few more hours until it hit 195 degrees F. Overall, it took 13 hours to get to this stage. I then removed it from the smoker and let it sit in a cooler wrapped in towels for an hour and a half while I prepared some sides to go with the meal.
After resting in the cooler, here is the end result:
It was juicy, it was tender, and the bone came out clean as a whistle. The bark tasted amazing, and I had to keep myself from just going after all of the bark pieces.
Needless to say, I started with a 9 lb pork butt, but ended up with zero! My wife let it slip that I was smoking a pork butt, and not only did her parents come over, but mine as well! Somehow, they both ended up taking home about the extras, leaving me with none. Regardless, I can say that my first smoking experience was a complete success!
Next time, I believe that I might add brown sugar into the rub mix to try and get a thicker bark, and I would try and use mesquite instead of hickory to impart a stronger smoke flavor.
Having finished the first smoke, let me say that while I am happy with my purchase, there are more mods that need to be done. First, I did get smoke coming out around the water drawer. I had not noticed this before during the initial smoke, and I also missed it during my real seasoning session, since it was dark outside at that time. I have plenty of left over LavaLock, so that should be a simple fix.
I also noticed that the temps were really fluctuating during the smoking session. I would get temp swing that were pretty constant. I had both of the dampers closed, and I also had the back of the smoker facing the wind, but I still got the temp swings. Temps would stay around 230 degrees, but would then swing as high as 245, and then head back down to 230. Then they might drop down to 215 before heading back up to 230 again. I am not entirely sure if this was just an issue with the placement of my probe in the smoker to monitor temps, but I never had a temperature swing with the probe that was in the meat itself. I think part of it was due to the water pan being on he small size, and my need to add in about a liter of water ever hour. I need to research how large of a pan I can fit in the drawer mount, and I think I will most likely switch over to using sand instead of water. Less hassle for sure. I also feel like I need to block of the lower portion of the smoker, much like Lamar did on his Landmann. If that doesn't correct the issue, then I guess I will have to follow Lamar's insulation tutorial as well.
The only other mod that I feel like I need is bracing the legs on the smoker. That have a bit of play in them, in spite of being firmly tightened. I think this has to do with the thin metal of the smoker, and less with the legs themselves. While I am bracing the legs, I plan on adding casters to make the moving of the smoker on my back porch easier to do as well.
Overall, I am ready to start planning my next smoking adventure, but with something that isn't quite as time intensive as a pork butt.